South African institutes
Agricultural Research Council - Institute for Soil, Climate and Water (ARC-ISCW)
||Agricultural Research Council
Institute for Soil, Climate and Water (ARC-ISCW)
About the Institute / Working Group
ARC-ICW is one of the ten (10) ARC Institutes. The objective of ARC-ISCW, with a national research mandate, is to promote the sustainable use and management of the agricultural natural resources soil, climate and water. This objective is underpinned by knowledge generation on agricultural natural resources and agro-ecosystems as well as research application; innovative technology development; and technology transfer.
Field of Expertise
ARC-ISCW has specialised expertise and experience in soil science; water science; meteorology; remote sensing; geographic information systems; conservation agriculture; water harvesting; soil, plant, water, ameliorant and other analyses; and socio-economics. A multidisciplinary approach is followed and expertise is supplemented by that of other ARC Institutes as well as experts from other research institutions.
- Natural resources databases/integrated information systems and decision support: custodian of agricultural natural resources databases [soil, agricultural climate (from >500 countrywide automatic and 90 mechanical weather stations maintained by the Institute) and remote sensing coarse resolution imagery (MODIS, Spotveg, NOAA and Meteosat)]; information systems; and integrated spatial agricultural and planning systems (national, municipal and local level). Products include early warnings, agricultural risk management; climate change modelling; land suitability advisories and maps; natural resources monitoring/auditing and status reports including those on land degradation, agricultural climate; integrated development and master plans; grazing capacity and rangeland condition;
- National knowledge base on natural resources, knowledge integration into holistic products and adaptation to provide agro-ecosystem-specific information;
- Soil protection and soil and water science with emphasis on sustainable agricultural production using conservation agriculture technologies, water use efficiency and water harvesting;
- Satellite as well as low level (ARCeagle) remote sensing platforms;
- Applied on-farm participatory research (learn by doing) to enhance the adoption rate of sustainable land use and management practices while farmers, extension officers and others are being trained;
- Degraded land restoration including bio-remediation of polluted soil;
- Soil, plant, water, mineralogical and other analyses. ARC-ISCW is the only South African institution authorised to analyse soil samples from across the country's borders;
- History of participating in/leading regional and national projects such as SADC Secretariat projects, the Conservation Agriculture Regional Working Group, UN GEF-funded Land Degradation Assessment in Drylands (LADA) FAO administered project; and co-author of the UNFCCC National Second Communication (2010);
- Training and mentorship of trainees in conservation agriculture and water harvesting projects; soil classification training; SADC member states in LADA methodologies; internship for SA graduates within its fields of R&D expertise and in analytical services; and training of regional staff in standard laboratory methodologies and management.
Short history of ARC-Institute for Soil, Climate and Water
ARC-ISCW was established in 1902 as the Division of Chemistry responsible for national chemical research and investigative work for South African, Swaziland, South West Africa (now Namibia) and the then Basutoland state departments, municipalities, public bodies and private individuals.
To meet the priority challenges related to land settlement, irrigation schemes development and management, rangeland conservation, pasture development and land degradation such as soil erosion, the Division was restructured in 1935 to focus on agriculture-related research, development and chemical analysis required to gain the fullest knowledge on soils and soil suitability for agricultural and pastoral production. Major advances were made in the fields of soil surveys, soil classification, soil erosion investigations, soil fertility, fertilizer studies, soil microbiology, farm-foods and pasture research.
In 1962 the Division became a fully-fledged research institute namely the Soils Research Institute. It was soon realized that an integrated natural resource use and management approach was required to obtain sustainable agricultural and environmental solutions and in 1971 the Institute's name was changed to the Soil and Irrigation Research Institute (SIRI). In addition to soil research and chemical analyses, SIRI's research mandate was expanded to include expertise on agrometeorology, and irrigation research and planning. In 1984 enabling technological and structure development were expanded by a remote sensing unit and in 1988 by a geographic information system (GIS) unit.
In 1992, in accordance with the Agricultural Research Council Act No. 86 of 1990 (amended in 1999 in terms of the Public Finance Management Act No. 1 of 1999), ARC-ISCW became one of the current ten (10) ARC research institutes.
Mandate of ARC
ARC was established by the Agricultural Research Act 1990 (Act. no. 86 of 1990 as amended) and is the principal agricultural research institution in South Africa. It is a schedule 3A public entity in terms of the Public Finance Management Act 1 of 1999 (as amended) and falls within the governance of the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. In terms of the Act the objectives of the ARC are to conduct research and development, to drive research and development, to drive technology development and transfer in order to promote agriculture and related industries; to contribute to a better quality of life; to facilitate and ensure natural resource conservation; and to alleviate poverty.
The organization performs its functions through ten research institutes strategically located throughout the country and clustered into five centrally-managed business divisions namely Animal Health, Animal Production, Grain and Industrial Crops, Horticulture, and Natural Resources and Engineering.
Cross-cutting ARC Programmes are:
- Climate Change
- Conservation Agriculture
- Water Resource Management
- Indigenous Crops
- Renewable Energy
R&D programmes per ARC Institute:
- Onderstepoort Veterinary Institute (Pretoria): new generation vaccine development; molecular epidemiology; food, feed and veterinary public health; trans-boundary animal disease control; and parasites, vectors and vector-borne disease.
- Animal Production Institute (Pretoria): beef; small animals; pig; poultry and dairy.
- Institute for Soil, Climate and Water (Pretoria): earth observation; geoinformatics; soil health and remediation; pedometrics; soil and water science; and agroclimatology.
- Institute Agricultural Engineering (Pretoria): agricultural mechanisation; agricultural farm structures.
- Plant Protection Research Institute (Pretoria): biosystematics of importance to agriculture and natural resource management; management strategies for invasive alien plants of environmental and agricultural importance; management of beneficial and harmful organisms of national relevance.
- Grain Crops Institute (Potchefstroom): maize, sunflower, soyabeans, groundnut, drybeans, cowpea and bambara; and Institute for Industrial Crops (Rustenburg): tobacco crops, potential new crops, cropping systems, and cotton crops.
- Small Grain Institute (Bethlehem): wheat, barley and oats.
- Vegetable and Ornamental Plants Institute (Roodeplaat, Pretoria): commercial vegetables; roots and tuber.
- Institute for Tropical and Sub-Tropical Crops (Nelspruit): citriculture, sub-tropical crops, and alternative crops.
- Infruitec (Stellenbosch): deciduous fruit; viticulture and oenology; temperate crops; and health and wellness.
National Public Assets
ARC is mandated to manage and maintain a range of National Assets and provide a set of National Services namely:
- DNA databank for stock identification
- Conservation of adapted indigenous livestock breeds
- Animal recording facility
- Plant voucher specimen collection and vegetation database including the Roodeplaat Herbarium and the national weeds list;
- National forage genebank;
- Fynbos germplasm bank;
- National culture collection of beneficial gastro-intestinal and food fermentation organisms;
- Exotic diseases and vaccine manufacturing
- Rabies laboratory
- Blood vaccines production unit
- National tick, helminth, insect Arachnids, nematodes, fungi pathogenic and plant promoting bacteria, plant virus and antisera, and rhizobium collections
- Serum bank (virology)
- Rift valley, blue tongue, African horse sickness, lumpy skin disease and African swine fever reference laboratories
- Agricultural equipment and implement test facility
- Hydrolabs and test branches
- Renewable energy demonstration centre
- Agro-meteorological network, databanks and information systems
- Land type and other soil surveys with associated databases and sample collections
- Coarse resolution (including NOAA) satellite image database for natural resources and disaster management
- Grapevine, deciduous fruit, yeast and alternative crops genebanks
- Tropical crops, indigenous plants and vegetable genebanks; and
- Protein seed, summergrain, small grain, wheat, barley, oats, rye, triticale, durum tropical crops, tobacco, cotton and fibre crops genebanks
This agency enables the ARC to provide national services and to assist regional and Africa-wide countries to manage and mitigate risk and disasters including those arising from climate- or otherwise-induced disease, pests, weeds and international trade. Services provided include diagnostic and surveillance services on potential pests and diseases. Key diseases and vaccine development include those for African Swine Flu, New Castle disease, Avian Influenza, Foot-and-Mouth disease and American Foul Brood in honey bees.
Other related ARC platforms are the Agricultural Biotechnology Cluster involved in marker assisted breeding, development of transgenic crops, development of both plant and animal diagnostics, and development of novel products such as vaccines; and the Agricultural Information System platform which includes the Agricultural Geo-referenced Information System (AGIS), the animal production Integrated Registration and Information System (INTERGIS) , and crop estimation.
ARC is one of the national Science Councils within the National System of Innovation under the aegis of the Department of Science and Technology contributing to the South African economy wider than agriculture per se.
ARC's strategic objectives are nationally, regionally and Africa-wide supportive and aligned with following:
- Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries as line function department, including the national objectives of the Agricultural Production Strategy; the Comprehensive Rural Development Programme; the National Research and Development Strategy; the National Agriculture Research and Development Strategy
- Department of Science and Technology, Ten Year Innovation Plan for Science and Technology.
- Agenda for Africa (NEPAD) including the Consolidated Science and Technology Plan of Action; and the Comprehensive African Agricultural Development Plan (CAADP)
- Medium Term Strategic Framework (2009-2014)
- Department of Rural Development and Land Reform
- Department of Water Affairs
- Department of Environmental Affairs priorities to facilitate a Green Economy with emphasis on the wise and sustainable use of wetlands by agriculture; agriculture and climate change; and the environmental management of mining sites in post-mining operations as well as International Conventions such as the UNFCCC and UNCCD; and Programmes under the aegis of this Department
- Department Parliamentary Monitoring and Evaluation. Related outcomes include sustainable agrarian reform and protection of environmental assets and natural resources. The latter includes reduced greenhouse gas emissions, climate change and enhanced water quality and quantity.
Excellence in research and development. Through the articulation of its vision, ARC underscores the following key issues:
- The importance of basic research as much as applied research capabilities
- The need for a strong partnership model to supplement ARC's capabilities
- Developing internal capabilities through targeted programmes
- The transfer and dissemination of research results products to facilitate technology in agriculture and the competitiveness of its clients
- Focus on ensuring that the agricultural sector, which includes resource-poor farming, becomes sustainable.
ARC mission statement
The Agricultural Research Council is a premier science institution that conducts research with partners, develops human capital and fosters innovation in support of the agricultural sector.
Truth: incorporating honesty and integrity
Accountability: incorporating responsibility and transparency
Respect: including equity, diversity, integrity and dignity
Growth: including equity, rewards and recognition
Excellence: incorporating empowerment and innovation
Trust: including ethics and transparency.
- Generate, develop and apply new knowledge and technology
- Sustainable use and management of natural resources
- Enhance nutrition, food security and safety
- Enhance the ability of the agricultural sector to manage and mitigate agricultural risk
- Technology transfer
- Organizational growth and sustainability.
- Comprehensive R&D capabilities covering all agriculture and agricultural production sectors
- Cutting-edge basic and applied research for agriculture (including urban food producers) and its value chain
- Innovative technology development
- Ensures the competitiveness of all its clients and promotes national and local economies
- Science and technology management, coordination and project management experience
- Member of national, regional, Africa and international working groups and networks covering a variety of agriculture and related fields, with the experience and capacity to catalyse national and regional cooperation and partnerships
- Mandated to manage, maintain and develop selected public assets
- History of coordinating/leading international projects and expert consultations
- A diverse range of scientists, veterinarians and engineers.
Selected ARC-ISCW's projects/initiatives/products:
- Manage and develop the country-wide agricultural weather stations network to monitor climate 24/7, agricultural databank and information system (including solar radiation and vegetation) based on >100 years climate data; early warning systems (spatial and point-source) and advisories. ARC-ISCW supplements the SAWS weather data and the project partner is DAFF as the weather stations network is a national public asset.
- National land type survey (homogeneous soil type, terrain form and climate on a 1:250 000 scale) as well as soil chemical, physical and clay mineralogical analyses per land type. Products include the generalized soil pattern map of South Africa, land type maps and descriptions published as Memoirs; land type databank; soil profile databank; soil information system; and soil classification.
- Response farming project in Limpopo and Mpumalanga funded by the French Government's FIRCOP through SADC Secretariat to assist rural poor dryland farmers to cope with climate risk. Cell phone messages were used to communicate climate conditions and advisories
- Land degradation assessment in drylands (LADA and GLADA). This UN global project is funded by GEF and administered by FAO. South Africa is one of six pilot countries (Argentina, China, Cuba, Senegal, Tunisia and SA) selected to develop and apply globally suitable land degradation assessment methodologies in cooperation with FAO and World Overview of Conservation Approaches and Technologies (WOCAT). Five SADC member states were trained in these technologies in 2010. The project will be concluded end 2010. Products include natural resource plans per province and decision support systems.
- South African Second National Communication in compliance with UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC): authored and convened the chapter on agriculture and member of national drafting team (2009/10).
- Greenhouse gas emission by agriculture. This project in partnership with WITS was funded by the British High Commission. Greenhouse gas measurement technologies suitable for South Africa were developed as well as a toolkit which will be used by the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) to monitor greenhouse gas emissions by agriculture. ARC-ISCW developed a cheap and simple method to collect and evaluate the flux of greenhouse gases. A dynamic databank is being developed by project partner Netgen as second phase.
- SADC Land and Water Management Applied Research and Training project (2004-2009). ARC-ISCW was the national coordinator for South Africa. Ten SADC member states participated in the Programme funded by the EU.
- Quantification of the benefits of conservation agriculture (ongoing): Conservation agriculture (CA) is actively promoted throughout most of Africa and in other developing countries as sustainable agriculture practice, but without scientific proof of benefits, which jeopardises adoption of these practices notably by commercial farmers. This multidisciplinary project quantifies the effects of CA by comparing this practice with traditional practices under controlled experimental conditions in the Eastern Cape and Gauteng Province. The effects of multi-factor CA on selected atmospheric, soil and crop properties are quantified and capacity of young scientists is being built. The project is multi-purpose as it includes awareness of soil health and productivity; mitigates greenhouse gas emissions and assists farmers to adapt to the effects of climate change and agricultural production risk.
- Geo-referenced fixed point monitoring sites. DAFF identified 2 000 sites to monitor changes over time and to assist with the calibration of satellite-derived modelling products. The Institute analysed 3 000 soil samples and soil information was captured in the National Soil Profile database which is a module of the Agricultural Geo-referenced Information System (AGIS).
- Drought areas identification to evaluate qualification for drought relief: The most recent of such studies was for the Eastern Cape Province Department of Agriculture. Both agricultural weather stations data and coarse resolution imagery data were used to delineate drought areas. Drought monitoring algorithms were adapted to be Eastern Cape-specific and data is provided to this Province on a monthly basis to identify drought-affected areas and as a scientifically-based methodology to allocate drought relief.
- Integrated spatial agricultural information and planning systems: These were developed for the North West Province in cooperation with the Development Bank of southern Africa: Agricultural Mater Plan and decision support system to provide a broad framework for municipalities to programme business plans aimed at Integrated Development Plans and Local Economic Developments.
Capacity Development Portfolio of the Working Group
ARC has a three-tiered capacity development portfolio namely a Professional Development Programme (PDP) for ARC post-graduate students; internships for all levels of graduates; and internal mentorship by its experts.
Services offered for SASSCAL
A wide range of potential services are available. These will be communicated more specifically and negotiated as the initiative matures and clarity is gained on research priorities and needs identified by RSSC and participating SADC member states.
Weblink to publications
- ARC Annual Reports
- ARC Strategic Plan 2010/11-2014/15
- Handbook for farmers (3 volumes) 2008